Tablet Ownership in the US Spikes Dramatically Over the Holiday Season

Tablet ownership outright exploded over the holiday season, according to Pew Research. With a margin of error of 2.4%, now 19% of American adults own tablet computers as of January, a jump from 10% +/- 2% in December. This can be largely be naturally attributed to gift-giving during holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, and Festivus (assuming that anyone wants to still hand out gifts after the Airing of Grievances). However, what should be noted is that while tablet ownership has naturally grown by large amounts over the past two years thanks to the iPad and other tablet computers, this is by far the biggest growth period yet for tablets.

While specific platform-by-platform ownership was not revealed, it seems likely that the Kindle Fire, Amazon’s heavily-marketed $199 tablet was a huge part of the growth, along with Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color and Nook Tablet, and even possibly the budget sub-$100 no-name brand tablets that many retailers pushed, especially during Black Friday. The iPad was obviously a large part of the growth, as well, but it seems unlikely that it was the sole force behind tablet usage growth. Still, Android tablets in some shape and form appear to be pushing tablets into more people’s hands, dramatically reshaping the personal computing market.

Also interesting to note is that e-reader ownership also spiked from 10% to 19% from December to January; while they aren’t as talked about as tablets are as desirable devices, there appears to be a demand for these as well. That many of these devices are now available for low price points – even entry-level Kindle and Nook models are available for below $100, and generic e-readers are getting even cheaper – has to be fueling the demand for these devices as well. Remember that this is where Android is doing well also: the Nook Touch is powered by Android, and many “color e-readers” with LCD screens are Android-based as well.

There also appears to be a significant crossover between e-reader and tablet owners: 29% of all American adults own either a tablet or e-reader, so for many, the devices may be complementary; e-readers with e-ink screens are seen as superior for reading in sunlight, while tablets are seen more as computing devices for them, and not so much for reading; or only for reading in favorable lighting conditions.

While there’s still a lot to learn from the data, and whether growth will continue is something that many manufacturers will be curious about, this data shows that tablets are not just fads or gimmicks: they’re becoming a serious part of the technology industry, and people clearly want them.

The Hills Are Greener: Apple Locks In On Education

The Hills Are Greener: Apple Locks In On Education

Jan 23, 2012

It may not have been the sexiest announcement, but Android supporters – manufacturers and users alike – should not underestimate Apple’s education gambit. Their big push into education with iBooks 2 being optimized for textbooks (both the reading and selling thereof) and iTunes U offering deeper integration with college courses could be the necessary roots they have to lay down for long-term success at the expense of Android.

What they are doing is getting to impressionable minds, and trying to get into their lives. If students grow up using and being acclimated to Apple technology, this will surely make them more likely to buy Apple in the future, no? An entire generation of students acclimated to Macs, iPhones, and iPads. It’s any businessperson’s dream, and one that Microsoft has had the potential to pull off themselves, but failed to do.

Do I believe that there is a lot of benevolent intent here? Definitely. Education clearly needs disrupting, with the state of America’s schools getting worse. Why not do it with the powerful technology that kids want to use, in ways that could empower, engage, and enhance learning? But when Apple lays down in their iBooks Author EULA (app for Mac-only of course) that books meant to be sold can only be done through the iBooks Store, then I grow skeptical that there isn’t some ulterior motive to try and completely dominate the space.

It creates vendor lock-in, something I’ve railed about before – and if teachers are creating educational material that essentially require students to buy Apple products, this is not only devious, but potentially monopolistic. Although it may not be that the material created in the app itself is locked in to iBooks, it’s still a deterrent to selling elsewhere. Surely, the convenience of publishing directly from the app to iBooks is incentive enough?

Why did the textbook market get into bed with Apple, anyway? The textbook market was clearly in need of shakeup – as a former college student, I can tell you how bad the book buying experience was. Apple’s now going to be selling textbooks for $14.99 maximum in their stores? It could actually be cheaper for students to buy an iPad and all their class books digitally than to buy the physical versions. I’m talking about on a single semester basis, if not for an entire year.

Why wouldn’t the textbook publishers get into the digital market? Imagine the kind of money that they lose from the used book market – they are starting to include more single-use products in their books (such as codes to access digital supplemental materials) but they have been slow to adopt digital distribution of their books themselves. A move to widespread digital formats, will kill that secondary market that they so despise. Not to mention the potential that Apple mentioned of being able to create content that can evolve and change as information changes, to remain up to date. Books could link directly to their source information and to research, and provide interactive material right in the text. Information that needed to be on paper could easily be printed out, of course. There’s just little reason for this to not happen, especially as tablets increase in popularity.

The question is just this: why didn’t the major publishers spearhead the push to digital themselves? As soon as the iPad was announced, they should have been at least planning on digital textbooks. They could have seized the market for themselves, and pushed for ones that would work on multiple platforms, not just on Apple devices. They could have charged what they wanted, not the $14.99 maximum. Will some publishers hold out for a while? I bet they will. But, they’ll find sales numbers dwindling as students begin to demand digital and iPad versions of the textbooks, and then the professors begin to use them. They’ll give in to Apple eventually, as they’ll just be powerless to do so. Because Apple are the ones running where these books are sold, the publishers will lose their control.

Given the larger issues surrounding SOPA and the push to adopt it from the MPAA and RIAA as of late, it makes me curious as to why big media is so unwilling to innovate and evolve. Are they really so blind to technological innovation and how they could use and exploit as to potentially lose control, just because they held on to their business models for too long? Gaming is far more willing to accept digital distribution and not see it as a threat, but as an oppotunity. The consoles have been slower to adopt it because of their deep hooks into retail, but I wouldn’t be surprised if more day-and-date games begin to be released digitally starting next generation, especially with that industry’s own blowback against used sales. Ultimately, they will dictate the terms, and those publishers will be the ones who last. Hollywood’s long-term existence is threatened because those who are finding ways to innovate and exploit the digital space are doing so from outside the industry, and the money is going to those innovators, not to the media companies. If they provided the innovation, then they could be the ones who last.

So why are the textbook publishers so willing to commit these same mistakes?

This is all not even getting into the fact that Apple controlling the digital publishing market is obviously harmful to Android. Apple is all about promoting and supporting their own ecosystem, and using their products to help support and promote their brand and their other products. iPods help sell iPhones which help sell iPads which help sell Macs, all the way up and back down the line. If students have particular advantages to buy and use iOS devices, why would they go Android? Why buy the Android tablet when the iPad will carry all those books, and they can be purchased at a lesser price than physical books? This is why textbook sales being so localized to the iPad is such a bad thing for both the publishers and Android supporters – a young market that wants to spend money on new technology will have reasons to not buy Android. That should be feared, even by Apple fans. Competition is ultimately a good thing for the market as a whole, and moves like what Apple are doing have a definitive anti-competition bent.

CaseSensor: A Brilliant Idea for Android Tablets Hampered by Flawed Hardware

CaseSensor: A Brilliant Idea for Android Tablets Hampered by Flawed Hardware

Jan 16, 2012

CaseSensor is an example of an app that theoretically, works well. There’s no reason why that it should not work based on the way that it is programmed.. It just runs into issues out of its control with the hardware and sensors that it uses that makes it a questionable purchase for some tablet owners.

What CaseSensor does is that it tries to replicate the Smart Cover functionality of the iPad 2. For those unaware, the iPad 2 has a magnet in it that allows the Smart Cover to lock and unlock the screen whenever it is detected as covering the screen. CaseSensor attempts to solve this problem by using the light sensor on tablets to detect when it is being covered, and when it isn’t, and it will automatically lock the screen when it detects the light sensor’s minimum value, like when it’s covered by a case, and unlock when it exceeds the minimal value.

Hypothetically, it works like a charm – when testing on my Xoom, whenever the light level reached zero, it locks the screen, and when it got above zero, the screen came on. There are options for whether the lock screen should appear or not, how long until the screen locks, and whether lock sounds should play or not. It’s very customizable, and the app appears to be very well done, and should do its job perfectly, though using it in the dark might be a problem because of the fact that it’s using light sensors, but it’s easy to suspend CaseSensor when necessary.

The problem, and it appears to not be the fault of the developers at all, is that light sensors are very, very fickle. See, some light sensors, such as the Xoom 1’s light sensor, are very poor at detecting light in some situations. This means that the lock timer will often turn on even when it is uncovered; while it’s possible to cancel the locking process, it clearly should not work this way. But, this is actually due to the light sensor. The Xoom light sensor tends to only respond to light that is directly overhead, rather than around it, so creating even any value that is slightly above its minimal value (0 for the Xoom, but other sensors have different values, according to the developer) requires to be very near a source of brightness, or the source has to be extremely bright.

An independent test of the light sensors using AndroSensor showed that it is not just the app that is detecting the light poorly, it is the sensor itself. Given my typical lighting situation, this means the app will not work for me as unless I’m directly under my lamp, the Xoom registers a value of zero.

So, I can’t really give this app a score, or much of a review at all – it works on a theoretical level, but is of limited utility to most people because of its hardware. The best way to see if this will work? Download an app like AndroSensor to measure the light sensor values, and if they work in a way where typical light conditions will register on the sensor, and covering the sensor will cause the minimal value, then check out CaseSensor, because it does work if the light sensor works. That’s just a questionable proposition for some users.

Firefox 9 Update Brings Tablet Support and Camera Access

Firefox 9 Update Brings Tablet Support and Camera Access

Dec 22, 2011

Firefox has updated their browser app for Android to version 9.0, to bring it in line with their desktop version of the browser. While there are general fixes for bugs and faster start up times, this update brings two key new features to the Firefox experience on Android.

First, is support for tablets. While the app did run on tablets before, some UI elements were smaller than they should have been on the tablet screen. Now, all elements are properly scaled and displayed on higher-resolution screens. A new tab bar is on the left in landscape mode, allowing for easy switching between tabs. While some issues still persist with issues like WordPress editing buttons not working (though WordPress has worked weird with pretty much any mobile web browser), this is a very capable alternative to the default Android browser that is currently available.

More importantly, this Firefox version has the ability for web sites to access the cameras on Android devices. This could allow for sites to offer augmented reality functionality on their websites, use user photographs and even possibly offer video chat from directly within the browser. While this function is limited at present, and no known websites offer it, this is a big step for the “web is better” crowd that wants to split away from the dependence on native apps that currently permeates mobile.

In particular, this push for tablet interfaces shows how important Android tablets are to top developers; having support for them is something that they want to be on top of as the market for tablets starts to expand. As more tablet devices start to hit the market, developers clearly want to have apps that will run properly on these devices as they increase in popularity. Firefox 9 for Android is available now from the Android Market.

The Hills Are Greener: In Which I Say Android Tablets Need to Drop Their Prices, TouchPad-Style

The Hills Are Greener: In Which I Say Android Tablets Need to Drop Their Prices, TouchPad-Style

Aug 22, 2011

The TouchPad is dead. Long live the TouchPad! HP suddenly killed off WebOS and the much-advertised but rarely-purchased TouchPad tablet, and suddenly dropped the price on the 16GB model to a paltry $99. This suddenly led to a massive spike in demand for the tablet. If someone woke up from a coma and went into a technology store to see signs saying that the TouchPad was out of stock all over town, they might wonder if they were still in that coma. If there is one lesson that Android tablet makers can take from the TouchPad, it is clear; they need to drop the price on their tablets ASAP.

If Motorola, Asus, HTC, and any other tablet manufacturers are serious about the tablet market (and if the iPad’s 30 million plus sales are any indication, they should be), they need to give up on trying to match the iPad on price. They need to, at least for a year or two, undercut the iPad at the knees. Sell those tablets or introduce entry-level models at $99 for the sake of market share. If the rush of people going out to pick up a discontinued tablet at $99 is any indication, people want tablets, and will go with non-iPad tablets at the right price. Apple’s marketing and design are too good to compete with them at or around the same price point, much less if they’re more expensive!

Android phone manufacturers can compete at similar price points in the smartphone market because the iPhone is still not on all carriers, and because pricing at $199 is much easier to compete with than $499 and up devices, not to mention that many good Android phones are often a cheaper option than the iPhone is. However, the difference in the tablet market is that tablets are more of a luxury option, and are not devices that will be constantly on a person like phones are. They are a secondary device to phones in terms of portability; going wifi-only with these devices is far more of a possibility than going with something like the iPod touch and a mobile hotspot. For the much higher price point, people appear to be deciding to go with the Apple option.

So it’s time for the tablet manufacturers to quit trying to compete on equal price footing. The tablet market is clearly different. It’s time to replicate part of why Windows became the dominant desktop operating system: because their machines were often cheaper than even entry-level Macintosh models. So Android tablet manufacturers, start cutting prices! I don’t just mean to $399, I mean $199 and lower. $99 if you can! Take a loss! Apple is currently dominating the tablet market, and there is clearly a demand for low-priced tablets. So start making capable but lower-capability full-size tablets. Start making Apple squirm. One company having a monopoly on an entire class of computers is not good. It’s not good for users, and it’s not good for developers, where having multiple potential options expands their business possibilities. The time is coming for Android tablet makers to put up or shut up, and the TouchPad’s short life and death in a blaze of massive discounts should teach these manufacturers some important lessons. The iPad can’t be competed with in the same way the iPhone is competed with.

Google Releases Catalog App for Tablets. Just Not Android Tablets. This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.

Google Releases Catalog App for Tablets. Just Not Android Tablets. This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.

Aug 18, 2011

Google just doesn’t seem to understand this whole releasing apps thing on iOS. First, Google+ was released for the iPhone, and just the iPhone. No, not even the iPod touch, just the iPhone. Why? Who knows. Now, they’ve released an app called Google Catalogs for tablet devices. This lets users browse through a variety of catalogs on the large tablet screen. There’s just one problem: the tablets this app was released for? The iPad. Not for Android tablets. No, the iPad. This isn’t a joke, though it was quite sheepishly pointed out by TheFind, who do have their own app called Catalogue for Android tablets.

Still, this whole thing is kind of silly. Android tablets are lacking for quality apps, and Google releases an app for iPad? Maybe this is just a case of their iOS team being completely different from the Android team, and there was no communication going on, similar to how Google says the Motorola purchase will supposedly work. Still, there’s just something about this that’s just quite asinine, and disrespectful to Android tablet owners hungry for more tablet apps. Et tu, Google?

The Hills Are Greener: The Tablet Inequality

The Hills Are Greener: The Tablet Inequality

Aug 8, 2011

I have gotten to use an Android tablet for a week and a half now. If there is anything that I have learned, it is that Apple’s penchant for design and user experience is quite overblown when comparing the iPad to Android tablets. While the iPad may have come first and sales numbers for Android tablets are struggling, Android tablets are designed to be superior usage experiences.

Android 3.x is just better designed for tablets than iOS is for the iPad. It starts on the lockscreen, where the lock is on the right side, easily accessible by the right thumb when holding the tablet with two hands. The multitasking works much better than iOS, with a virtual button for calling up a list of the most recently opened apps. This means that switching between apps works much better than iOS, where double-tapping the menu button is required to call up the multitasking dock. The notification system is designed to be unobtrusive, with notifications popping up in the bottom right of the static bar without being obtrusive. This bottom right area offers easy access to the recent notification stack, as well as quick options for brightness, rotation, wifi, and quick access to settings. The static bottom bar is always available, and is thumb-accessible. That is the best part about Android tablets -they feel like they were designed for tablet usage, far more so than iOS is for the iPad. It feels like whenever the tablet has to be held in one hand, it’s because thumb access was not impenetrable, with the exception of the keyboard; thankfully it is easy to find thumb keyboards on Android Market.

Compare this to the iPad, where the device just feels like a blown up iPhone after using an Android tablet. The OS itself is not designed for tablets. Many elements feel placed where they are because that’s where they were on the iPhone, like the lock slider being in the bottom center of the lockscreen. While Apple is making improvements, like a builtin thumb keyboard, and an improved notification system that won’t entirely interrupt apps with a small box in the center of the screen, it will still just feel like a bigger iPhone. The apps are what defines the tablet experience of the iPad, not the OS itself. While this is less of a problem with the iPad having App Store access, than the limited selection of tablet apps on the Android Market, it still feels like Apple could do more to make the iPad feel like a more natural tablet experience. Even having more apps on the homescreens like Android has would help improve the experience.

User experience is Apple’s strength! So why does a tablet made by Motorola and featuring a Google-designed OS feel more comfortable and natural than Apple hardware and software? The iPad I love because of the apps and games for it; my Android tablet I love because it is better to use. The apps will come. The iPad was the first major tablet, but I have learned it is not the best tablet. Android is the OS that is supposed to be rougher around the edges, yet it somehow is better as an OS?

iCookbook Brings a Huge Cookbook to Android Devices

iCookbook Brings a Huge Cookbook to Android Devices

Jul 14, 2011

What’s the problem with cookbooks? Well, they don’t have touchscreens. Or internet access. Or the ability to add new recipes. Plus, with the limits of paper, there’s only so many recipes they can old without a cookbook becoming too big to use! However, the beauty of tablets is that they have large, touchable screens, and they have wifi internet access in order to download new information! All they need is a good cookbook app to help to turn their devices into bona fide cookbooks. iCookbook, now available on Android, aims to do just this.

iCookbook offers over two thousand recipes from within the pages of the app. This app is designed to be used while cooking, so having a tablet stand will help out with using the app. The app works with phones as well, but is optimized for tablet usage. Users can easily search for recipes from within the app. Ever wanted to make buffalo chicken pizza? Just search for “buffalo” and different recipes for buffalo chicken pizza will pop up, along with other kinds of spicy buffalo-flavored treats. Each recipe comes with preparation instructions and pictures, and a space for users to add their own notes to the recipe, so they can note their own cooking instructions or changes to the recipe. The app also offers a cooking timer, and the ability to convert units to other forms of measurement.

iCookbook’s regular price for Android will be $4.99, but those with access to the Amazon Appstore can get it for free on July 14th from there. It’s optimized for tablet devices, but will run on phones; graphical elements and text will be smaller, but the app is still usable, it will just require a bit of squinting. iCookbook is a limited-time exclusive to the Amazon Appstore, and will launch worldwide on the Android Market on August 7th.

Android Tablets to Get App Scaling Options in 3.2

Android Tablets to Get App Scaling Options in 3.2

Jul 12, 2011

Android tablet owners will soon get a respite from unoptimized tablet apps in Android 3.2, as Google is introducing a new display feature. Previously, apps would just run displayed in fullscreen; this was a problem for apps that were designed for small phone resolutions, when they were filling out entire screen, some graphical elements did not display properly. Starting in 3.2, tablets can now render apps at approximately 320×480 resolution, and then be scaled to fill the entire screen. If a developer has an app that works properly at tablet resolution, they can disable this mode as well, according to the Android Developers’ Blog. This functionality is similar to how the iPad currently handles non-iPad apps, although the ability to force them to run at 1024×768 resolution can be enabled through jailbreak extensions. While apps may not be much better to use with this feature, games should benefit from this ability to scale. There is some definite loss of visual fidelity with the scaling, but for tablet owners, this should help expand the number of usable apps for them.

Source: Phandroid

OnLive Coming to Android Tablets This Fall

OnLive Coming to Android Tablets This Fall

Jun 15, 2011

Cloud-based gaming is coming to Android tablets this fall, as OnLive is planning to release an OnLive Player App for iPad and Android tablets. OnLive is the cloud-based gaming service that allows for the playing of PC games that are being run on OnLive’s remote computers, instead of on the device itself. While OnLive has been supported through PCs and their OnLive MicroConsole for TV and monitor output. As well, OnLive has dabbled into the world of tablets before, with the OnLive Viewer app for iPad, although this has only been used for viewing games being played; actually playing the games has not yet been supported.

The games appear to not support on-screen controls, which may be for the best, considering that the games are built for actual physical controls. Instead, they’ll support OnLive’s Universal Wireless Controller, which connects to devices via either USB or Bluetooth, the latter being how the tablet controls will likely work. The apps will also support display output, so that the tablets can act similarly to the MicroConsole. This controller could theoretically be used wherever OnLive is available, so users could pack up their controller and play their games wherever they have OnLive access.

The apps are theoretically not going to be available for smaller Android phones; this is likely because playing a console game on a small 4-inch screen does not sound like it would work very well. Of course, the possibility exists that the talented Android hacking community ocould finagle up a way to make it work on phones, if at all possible. The iPad app will also support a remote web browser with Flash; Android tablets naturally can just run Flash in any web browser. There’s no word on the cost, if any, of the app, or if there will be any subscription fees or any fees for using the tablet apps. The apps are scheduled for release later this year.

Source: Pocket Gamer

Skillz: The DJ Game Coming to Android Tablets

Skillz: The DJ Game Coming to Android Tablets

Jun 3, 2011

Hong Kong-based developer Playpen Studios are releasing their rhythm game Skillz, winner of the IGF China 2010 “EXcellence in Audio” award, for PC and tablet devices. And, since this is an Android site, this means that Android tablets are included in the fun!

Skillz: The DJ Game, scheduled for release later this year, gives players virtual turntables, which they use scratch, crossfade, and play samples in order to remix music. Various modes will be offered, from a freestyle mode to a career mode. Over 20 tracks will be available with the game at launch, including these tracks:

• Amp Live – “Gary is a Robot”
• People Under the Stairs – “Trippin’ at the Disco”
• Diplo – “Newsflash”
• Samantha James – “Breathe You In (Andy Caldwell Dub)”
• James Pants – “Ka$h (Trizzy & XXXchange remix)”
• Redlight – “Stupid”
• Bassnectar – “Teleport Massive”

The game will come with OpenFeint for high scores and achievements, and Playpen Studios promises additional tracks to be made available after launch “on an ongoing basis.” Joe Gilbertson, co-founder of Playpen Studios, claims that the game will be great for the large screens and touch interfaces of tablets: “As we continued working on the title, we started playing with mobile tablets and realized the touch-screen interface was perfect for our game. As a DJ myself, I know players will love interacting directly with the screen, triggering samples, riding the crossfader and scratching up the dual turntables to create sweet new mixes. We can’t wait to launch and get this into everyone’s hands!”

Playpen Studios will be launching the game later this year for PC, iPad, and Android tablets. There’s not a lot in the way of original content for Android tablets, so this could definitely help, especially at around the holiday seasons when tablet manufacturers will be hoping for increased Android tablet sales. There They will be showing off the game at E3 next week at DNA Interactive’s booth, located at booth #2959 in South Hall. For those unable to go, check out some screens below, and click here to a view a trailer.